Inside the NFL’s Plan to Turn Its 100th Season Into a Yearlong Celebration

Photo Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The National Football League sponsorship team had been talking to league partners about the upcoming 100th season celebration for nearly two years, but it wasn’t until Super Bowl LIII, when the NFL ran a two-minute commercial entitled “100-Year Game,” that sponsors realized just how important this campaign will be.

“I think they knew that it was going to be big because we’d been telling them for so long that it was going to be big,” said Monica Gimlett, the NFL’s Director of Sponsorship Strategy & Business Development. “But for them to see that we were devoting our most valuable institutional inventory of the entire year – two minutes in the Super Bowl – to this, I think it really helped them to feel, like, ‘Wow, we’re all in on this.’”

The NFL reportedly did not have to pay for the time, which was valued at more than $20 million. But the spot – which featured nearly 40 NFL legends past and present and was among the most talked-about commercials of the Super Bowl – was a smashing success in the NFL’s mission to build awareness for the “NFL 100” initiative.

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The 100th season doesn’t officially kick off until Sept. 5, when the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers in a matchup of the only two current franchises that were around in 1920. Nevertheless, the NFL is making a yearlong celebration out of its centennial anniversary, a strategy they’re well-versed in through growing offseason moments like the combine and draft into tentpole events.

Next up: The NFL has already launched a contest that will culminate on April 25, the first night of the NFL Draft in Nashville, when one fan wins a pair of season tickets from one team for 100 years.

“The NFL was built on multi-generational fandom that bonds people together,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when the contest was announced. “Giving someone a century’s worth of NFL season tickets may be the single greatest sports prize ever offered to a fan. It represents 100 years filled with incredible memories to share with the people who matter most.”

In addition to unveiling that contest winner, the league and its partners will be making liberal use of the new “NFL 100” logo. According to Gimlett, the NFL has worked it out with sponsors to make sure they use the NFL 100 logo anywhere they would normally be using the NFL shield in their creative material.

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“Whether that’s in their NFL-themed commercial spots, NFL-themed packaging, on-site activation they might be doing with us, at Kickoff or at the Super Bowl, for example,” said Gimlett. “So they’re going to be weaving the mark and helping to promote awareness in some of those ways.”

Sponsors are also planning their own campaigns to take advantage of the 100th season celebration. Gimlett said some of those will roll out beginning at the draft, though most will launch closer to the start of the regular season and culminate at Super Bowl LIV, on Feb. 2, 2020 in Miami.

Along with sponsor activation, all 32 clubs will host various events under the NFL 100 umbrella. NFL Media plans to roll out NFL 100 content on its owned and operated channels, be it NFL Network, and social accounts.

“We have a content team based in L.A. that’s been collaborating with NFL Films on all the different media pieces and how we can help bring it to life, whether it’s through things in our studio shows, specific executions on our social handles,” said Gimlett. “Really thinking of NFL 100 as a takeover of all of those things.”

The NFL 100 campaign, of course, will be deeply integrated into all game telecasts across all platforms, so media partners will be spreading the gospel as well.

Besides “NFL 100,” the other buzzword the NFL will be asking its partners to use is “Fantennial.”

“We’ve coined the term ‘Fantennial’ to serve as the spirit of the NFL100 celebration,” said Pete Abitante, chair of the NFL100 campaign. “We’re excited to recognize fans all season long with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, all while we pay tribute to the players, coaches and teams that have helped create and continue to foster the NFL.”

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Abitante said the history of the NFL is all about people, passion and partners.

People range from players, coaches, owners and executives to fans around the country and the world,” said Abitante. “Passion is what links everyone together – the incredible moments shared whether in the stadium or watching from afar. And, of course, our partners – broadcast, sponsor, licensee – who have helped bring it all to life.”

It is those partners that will help the NFL spread its NFL 100 message.